The Answer to Existence

Shortlisted for the 'More Than This' short story writing competition.

Marie has always been different.

To everyone else the world seems to be it; our life on Earth all there is, but Marie knows differently. Marie sees more.

Her classmates believe that what you see is what you get, and don't waste much time over pointless philosophical questions like: 'what is the meaning of life?'

But, as I said, Marie is an original. And, for some reason she can't explain, she has answers.

After so much time walled up in her own world can Marie knock down the block between her and the rest of society?

Can Marie really pass on her answers to a fellow teenager? And, can Marie hold a grasp on the answer before it consumes her?

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3. When A Sceptic Doubts The Truth

I like being 'The Answer'.

After the black mist had consumed me and temporarily knocked me out I woke up again - something I was not expecting to happen. But I wasn't myself.

Sure, I looked the same in my own eyes - the mirrors reflected that much - but no one else seemed to see me, and I liked it. No, loved it.

You think I'm crazed, insane, demented even. But that's what society does: labels someone with a greater sight as sheer delusional.

My new life was arduous to conform to at first. Firstly, I'm invisible to everyone I meet. Teachers, uncles, class'mates', the chef at Wendy's; even my mom. I have to admit, even though my mom and I aren't close, it was hard to adapt to the whole invisibility curtain between the world and I when it came to my mom. For me it was tough; for her galling.

Yeah, she didn't care for me much, but mom doesn't exactly have bundles of relatives to pick and choose from a pile at her dispense.

Then, everyone thinks I'm dead.

Rumour got out - Timothy - that I was making up this whole 'meaning of life mumbo-jumbo shit', his words, not mine. I had apparently disappeared after vocalising my words, so, naturally, everyone in the town thought I was dead.

"I heard she got ran over by a truck during the night she left."

"Have you heard? Freak-girl died last week!"

"She killed herself out of shame, apparently."

I don't know what was more annoying: the fact that people thought I was dead, or that no one was even asking about the answer.

That's the most infuriating thing about being The Answer; I'm neither living or dead. Just existing.

I knew I didn't have friends before but I could at least be with people. They would at least know I'm there, even if they didn't want me to be. Now I'm just alone; no being with people. Because, honestly, swearing in teenagers faces while they continue to write in their jotters unfazed does not count as being with them as such. And, believe it or not, does get boring after a few hours.

Is that you complaining?

Sorry, I didn't mean it. I like being The Answer. And, as long as I behave, the answer likes me.

 

***

 

I'm standing outside Timothy Hughes' house.

Green, clean cut lawn, 'Jeep Wrangler' spotless and shining, flower pots blooming; typical American house in a neighbourhood straight from a film set.

The front door's open; I walk straight in.

Mrs Hughes is standing in the air-conditioned hall, two shopping bags in hand. I reconginse her as Timothy’s mom from the parent-teacher nights at our school.

"Timothy, get down here and unload these bags for me!" She shouts, dropping the plastic carriers and stepping into what I assumed was the living-room.

The stairs creak as I hear footsteps descend them, then Timothy rounds the corner, rapping to himself.

"But what am I supposed to do
When the topic is red or blue
And you understand that I ain't
But know I'm accustomed to", he sang. I wasn't really listening though - music was never my thing.

He lifts the bags from the ground and I followed him into the kitchen.

"Just a couple that look for trouble
And live in the street with rank
No better picture to paint than me walking from bible study
And called his homies because he had said he noticed my face
From a function that tooken place", he continued, shoving the messages into cupboards.

It was weird seeing Timothy in a new light as he stomped across the kitchen, rapping and moving like a rapper, if you know what I mean. He looked like he was in his element – another world.

Too bad he'll never get to be a rapper.

Huh? Did I just imagine what The Voice said?

It only took a couple of minutes until Timothy had cleared everything away and started walking back upstairs. I followed.

He sat on his double bed and opened a book.

'The Road to SAT English' the cover read.

Wow, I was not expecting that.

To be honest I didn't really know what I was doing here. Again, the answer summoned me. I was getting used to it by now though. It would leave me alone for a while, just so I could begin to settle into the silence of its absence, before re-entering my conscience and taking almost complete control over my mind.

Everything was normal. I had examined the photos beside the window of family members, friends, and I was dozing off in a beanbag in the corner when it happened.

Timothy sat the book down on the bed and ran his hands down his arms. Then, he jumped from the bed and made for the door, but tripped over his own feet and collapsed into a heap on the ground, panting hard.

Naturally, I ran over.

"Timothy, Timothy listen!"

Pant, pant.

Worry rattled through my bones.

"Timothy, hear me, listen!"

He looked straight up at me.

"Marie? Am I..... Am I dead?"

"No, we're not dead! But that doesn't matter; just hold on ok?"

He cried out in pain.

I knew how he felt.

"My skin. It's on fire!" Pant, pant, sweat.

"You're going to be..."

I trailed off as Timothy squeezed his eyes shut tight and grunted one last time.

Then all went silent.

When Timothy's eyes re-opened he was a different boy.

The answer had consumed him

 

 

 

 

 

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